Opinion: Does the search for an apartment make you want to scream? You’re not alone.
I was full of the righteous irritation that comes with the yearly apartment-hunting hullabaloo when I started writing this article. As I was writing it out in my head, my planned first line was “The woman writing to you today is, in a word, drained.” Any college student in Eugene right now could rant to you about the frustrations of the housing market. So what caused the shift from melodrama to waffling on about my writing process? Coincidentally, my lease application for next year was just approved as I started writing. But if you thought the solution to my personal problems would deter me from writing about the problems in Eugene as a whole, think again.
To be completely fair, the woman writing to you is still drained. The fact that I’ve finally secured a lease doesn’t take away from how exhausting the whole process has been so far. This is my second year of having to plan housing so I know the drill by now, but experiencing it all over again is a fresh nightmare. At any given point within the past three months, a solid half of my open tabs have been houses and apartments. I’ve moved from one group of roommates to another and looked into all sorts of apartments, townhomes and houses. My email and phone history are littered with responses to tour requests and notices that certain properties have already been rented. None of these issues are monumental alone, but together they’ve been driving me up the wall.
Part of what makes this process so difficult is the endless competition. The class of 2026 is the largest freshman class in UO’s history, and this influx of students means the fight for a decent apartment is more fierce than usual. The rate of available apartments doesn’t always perfectly match the increase in potential renters, and I understand that development takes time (and is a hotly contested issue on its own), but it would be nice to not constantly struggle against my peers in the quest for a decent place to live. I’ve lost track of the number of applications I’ve started to fill out only to be told that a property was no longer available.
I’m also frustrated by the orchestrated timeframe of the entire rental process. Last year, I was shocked when people started talking about next year’s living arrangements in early December. By that point, I had only been living in Eugene for around three months. The idea of thinking that far ahead was crazy to me. This year, I knew it was coming, but the timeline was no less absurd in my view. Given the competitive rental market, people will start to question your choices if you don’t know who you want to live with by January. By that point, you’re only three to four months into the school year and your lease. The pressure of trying to plan your next move that early is so unnecessary.
Although I can recognize this is the most inconsequential point on my list, one glaring flaw in the apartments here is that so many of them are downright ugly. For some reason, almost every property management website is rife with photos of the most repulsive looking tile floors you’ve ever seen in your life. Beyond that, many housing options seem to have been designed by people who have never actually spent time in modern society. I can’t count the apartments I’ve seen without basic laundry facilities. One of my friends has a kitchen entirely lacking drawers. If you’re lucky enough to find an affordable apartment in Eugene, chances are it has some major aesthetic and/or practical downsides.
And I promise I realize how much of a first-world problem this is. I can only speak from a college student’s perspective, but the unbelievable housing market here obviously has more serious effects. Eugene has the highest rate of homelessness per capita in the entire country, and the city government points to a lack of affordable housing as a primary reason. Not only is the market a headache to deal with, but its exclusivity has serious repercussions.
Prohibitive cost is a roadblock for students and community members alike. As of October 2022, the average rent in Eugene was a whopping $1,750. Although this is often split by roommates and doesn’t necessarily reflect the average person’s individual rent, it’s still absurdly expensive, especially for students on a tight budget. I don’t have the economic background to prescribe a solution, but it’s clear that the rental market in Eugene is in serious need of an overhaul. As it stands, dealing with the system is a headache for everyone involved.